Reality Films

Written, directed and produced by Tim Walter, The Spirit of the Serpent opens with a beautiful sky shot near the megaliths known as the Merry Maidens, a Neolithic stone circle in Cornwall, UK.

Host Rupert Soskin says a team of experts previously investigated the Maidens with the intent of making a TV documentary.

We’re then introduced to the experts.

The first expert, Hamish Miller, gives an utterly credible account of a near death experience (NDE) that he says changed his life for the better.

Miller also forwards theories about the relationship between ritual and energy at sacred sites, Feng Shui, ley lines and differences in ancient vs. contemporary perspectives.

Jim Lyons, the second expert, is an academic specializing in the sciences with an interest in quantum physics. Lyons is primarily concerned with potential correlations between (a) Earth energy and (b) hormonal and neurological changes. He provides an interesting discussion on hypothesized links between consciousness and biophysics within the non-local paradigm that has arisen from the world of subatomic physics.

Julle Soskin, the third expert, is a psychic who prefers to be known as a ‘sensitive’ due to the negative connotations and practical repercussions often associated with the term ‘psychic.’ Soskin gives a candid and, I think, valuable first-hand account of some of the pros and cons that the gifted saint, seer, mystic or psychic may encounter along the course of his or her psychosocial development. In fact, she’s a good reminder that even unusually gifted people are still just people.

The fourth expert, Ba Russell, is a former physiotherapist turned spiritual healer who discusses the need to release the selfish, fearful, controlling and biased aspects of the ego and yet respect boundaries when working with sacred power. Russell claims that everyone has healing abilities (such as the laying on of hands) but adds that some individuals feel especially drawn to developing them.

The final expert and host, Rupert Soskin, is a researcher, outdoorsman and guide interested in diverse forms of energy that he, drawing from the work of Aristotle, defines as “the capacity for movement and change.” Soskin touches on the notion of subtle energy, an idea tacitly assigned to the fringes of Western culture but often embraced and even carefully classified in the spiritual traditions of other, so-called underdeveloped societies.

Next, the DVD turns to the experts’ work at the Merry Maidens site. This portion of the video is presented by Clare Grogan (pictured above with Rupert Soskin) whose lighthearted approach helps to keep things moving at a good, fast pace.

At this point it should be noted that, until watching this DVD, I have been somewhat indifferent to idea of Earth energies and, for that matter, the entire phenomenon of dowsing. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve tended to see dowsing as a curious folkloric practice stemming from a somewhat limited cosmology that excludes the upper reaches of the spirit.

So while watching Mr. Miller traversing the field with dowsing rod in hand, at first it seemed a bit too easy the way his rod dipped along precise points outlining flower and spiral patterns in the turf, patterns which the academic Jim Lyons noted bore some kind of relationship to mathematical formulae (a relationship that I felt might have been better explained).

But not being an ideological ‘control freak’ nor close-minded debunker, I did a bit of research and found that, historically speaking, dowsing has its fair share of supporters and detractors. Like most kinds of paranormal practice, defenders of dowsing say that skeptics and scientific researchers do not appreciate the holistic paradigm required to yield positive results. Experimental research, dowsers say, fails to exhibit significant figures because, quite simply, the vibes aren’t right.

After thinking it over, I concluded that Mr. Miller is either a very talented dowser or perhaps unconsciously engaging in a bit of wish-fulfillment. It’s really impossible to tell from the outside and I’ll have to admit uncertainty on this point.

My main concern with the Serpent, however, isn’t about the truth or falsity of dowsing but with the DVD’s apparent homologizing of the, in my opinion, distinct realities of energy and spirit.

Is energy or even subtle energy qualitatively equivalent to spirit? And what of the Holy Spirit? Might this differ from other spiritual manifestations?

Postmodern thinkers may wrongly suppose that I’m just playing word games. And some New Age enthusiasts might blithely assume, as has been the case in the past, that I’m merely an overzealous Catholic passing on the latest teachings from the Vatican.

I’m definitely not alone, however, in discerning subtle energies from other forms of spirituality that are rightly called Holy.

Having said that, I would urge some conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Christians to think again before denouncing the notion of Earth energies as a mere Satanic deception or perhaps as an instance of unsound magical thinking. Surely there must be some middle ground where adherents of these disparate cosmologies could meet and learn from one another.

How dull, insipid and perhaps oppressive life would be if we uncritically agreed with any religious or professional group pretending to have all the answers to our essentially mysterious universe.

In short, The Spirit of the Serpent is a thought-provoking, wide-ranging DVD that any serious paranormal researcher will surely want to add to their collection.


With minor stylistic revisions from original post of 2008/05/08